VATICAN CITY -- The sexual revolution of 1968 and Western society's growing secularization are to blame for the Catholic Church's pedophilia crisis, former Pope Benedict XVI argues in a rare foray into the public sphere.
"Among the freedoms that the Revolution of 1968 sought to fight for was this all-out sexual freedom. ... Part of the physiognomy of the Revolution of '68 was that pedophilia was then also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate," he wrote.
"Why did pedophilia reach such proportions? Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God," he wrote, lamenting, as a negative example of Western secularization, failed attempts to include a reference to God in European Union treaties.
The controversial remarks -- also linking pedophilia to homosexuality and criticizing liberal theology inspired by the 1960s Second Vatican Council -- came from an essay the German-born Benedict wrote for Klerusblatt, a monthly periodical distributed in Bavarian churches.
The former pope, who turns 92 on April 16, rarely makes public comments. He lives in a Vatican monastery, and upon retiring in 2013 -- the first papal resignation in almost 600 years -- he pledged to "remain hidden to the world."
His essay was publicized overnight by several media outlets, including Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper and the U.S.-based Catholic News Agency. It drew criticism from liberal theologians, including one who called it "embarrassing."
"This is an embarrassing letter. The idea that ecclesial abuse of children was a result of the 1960s, a supposed collapse of moral theology, and 'conciliarity' is an embarrassingly wrong explanation for the systemic abuse of children and its coverup," Brian Flanagan, a theologian at Marymount University in Virginia, tweeted.
Benedict wrote that after the "unprecedented radicalism" of the 1960s, "homosexual cliques were established in various seminaries, which acted more or less openly and significantly changed the climate in the seminaries."
He also complained that "in not a few seminaries, students caught reading my books were considered unsuitable for the priesthood. My books were hidden away, like bad literature, and only read under the desk."
According to the former pope, "the question of pedophilia (in the church), as I recall, did not become acute until the second half of the 1980s," arising first in the United States, and initially underestimated.